BY ALEXA CHERRY
For the UAS Whalesong
As you may or may not have been aware, UAS hosted its annual Counseling and Health Center Wellness Fair in the middle of March. The campus health and counseling departments (as well as other campus services) set up booths in the cafeteria, and if you went around to five of them and got a sticker from each one, you could win a prize. Always game for a campus activity, I decided not to spend money on lunch and to instead spend some time checking my blood pressure and sugar levels. It was fun, I got a recyclable shopping bag and a free bottle of bubbles out of it, and I learned that I have normal blood sugar levels. In addition, while it was not one of the booths that I visited, they also supplied information and resources regarding the importance of safe sex – and therein lies the topic of this article.
In the aftermath of the Wellness Fair, someone mentioned to me that they disagreed with the message of the sexual intimacy booth. Their argument was that “intimacy” and “protection” didn’t belong in the same sentence, and were unrelated – if you’re being intimate with someone, you shouldn’t need to be protected from them. This is an argument that I took issue with, but this article is not necessarily in response to that argument so much as it is in response to the belief behind the argument.
Consider this quote from Stephanie Coontz’s book, A Strange Stirring: “Once a woman said ‘I do,’ she was assumed to have said ‘I will’ for the rest of her married life” (13). This was the commonly held opinion regarding sexual intimacy in the 1960s, and is unfortunately still something people consider to be the case today with all genders – that once you’ve entered willingly into an intimate relationship with someone, whether it be before or after marriage, that first “yes” translates into “yes” every time thereafter. This is not the case at all; if you choose to be intimate with someone, that absolutely does not invalidate your right to your own personal comfort. No always means no, regardless of how long your relationship has been going on or how well you know (or think you know) the other person.
While “protection” can certainly refer to emotional protection, as in the case of consent, it’s also important to take physical protection into account. Especially in college, if you choose to be sexually active, birth control is always a good idea. Obviously, abstinence is the best form of birth control, but it’s worth pointing out that there are free condoms available outside the Health Clinic in downstairs Mourant. That being said, there are also many other forms of birth control available for women, and it doesn’t hurt to use more than one preventative measure. This does not mean you’re being less intimate, or are afraid to be more intimate with, your partner; it simply means that you’re choosing to guard yourself against the hazards inherent to sex. If you decide not to abstain completely, that does not mean that you shouldn’t try to keep yourself safe from STDs – or, if you’re a woman, that you shouldn’t protect yourself from becoming pregnant during your time at college. Choosing to take care of your own body absolutely does not nullify any of the intimacy between you and your partner. You’re still having sex – except now, it’s safe sex. The lifespan of the modern-day human is longer than it was 300 years ago for a reason.
Just remember: if you’re going to be sexually intimate with someone, the situation is still about both of you and each of your individual needs. You should not feel pressured to do anything simply because you’ve done it before, and you should also listen to your partner – there are more ways to say “no” than through actually saying the word. Your body is a temple, and no one is allowed to mess with it except you.